Percentages in Tennis: to win your matches

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Percentages in Tennis: to win your matches

Sooner or later, we all need to address the importance of percentages in tennis. This is particularly true if we want to improve our knowledge of the game, as well as our own games.

But before we can talk about percentages, we need to define what we mean by the term. The dictionary tells us that a percentage is a “proportion in one-hundredths: a proportion stated in terms of one-hundredths that is calculated by multiplying a fraction by 100.”

In tennis, we can define this by saying that if I hit a hundred balls and make 70 of them, my percentage is 70.

The concept is quite simple, and the mechanism behind improving this percentage is also simple.

For example, you could simply lower your first service speed, and in so doing increase the number of first servers you make. You could also aim for safe parts of the court or, as a longer term solution, improve your technique.

I sincerely believe that each of us knows the importance of improving our percentages. But let us look at exactly how others have done this, what their percentages mean, and how we can improve our own.

How did a phenomenal player like Federer, who is technically perfect, not manage to steadily increase his first service percentage over the years?

Here, the concept of proportional and situational percentages come into play. Basically, with each and every point, the optimal percentages change, and we adjust our play accordingly. For example, if we decided to hit each serve very slowly, we would get a 100% success rate in terms of getting the ball into play, but we would not win many points.

Putting the concept of tennis percentages to use means attempting shots that are right for the moment, which have the greatest chance of ultimately winning us the point.

To be, or not to be?

- Is it better to hit an ace, or hit a high percentage first serve, and in doing so control the rally?

- Is it better to attempt a winning forehand, or just hit a solid forehand and come to the net to finish the point?

- It is better to play defensively, with lots of top spin, or offensively and flat?

This is the dilemma.

Unfortunately, there is no single answer to cover every situation. We can only hope to understand each situation well enough so that we can employ the correct strategy each time.

Simply put, Federer does not try just try to hit every service into play. He could easily do so if he wanted to, but then he would not achieve what he wants to achieve with his serve: win the point. During the match, he constantly mixes up the angle and speed of his serve, and he does so to adjust to his opponent and each particular situation.

The choice is yours

In our example, we will insert a lot of variables. I would like you to think about it, and formulate your own opinion about what the right approach is.

Is it better to go for an ace


Is it better to hit your first serve at 70%?

What do you do if:

- You are in the lead four to one in the third set at 15-15 when

- Your opponent is very aggressive on your second serve and

- You have a strong wind in your favor and

- You’ve hit at least 3 aces and

- You lost the first set 4-1?

Write your choices in the comments, and next time we will analyze them and see what the best choices are.